FARMINGTON — Environmental consultants are a step closer to a plan to stabilize the riverbank that threatens the Whittier Road.

Consultant Rick Jones said the Federal Emergency Management Agency responded this week to the proposal that includes avoid harming an Atlantic salmon spawning ground in the Sandy River along the bank.

Jones said they are now working with the agency to create a final draft of the plan.

The project is complicated by the need to complete the work during a narrow timeframe this summer to avoid harming the endangered fish.

The proposed $277,170 project would shore up the bank using rootwads, which are tree bottoms driven into the bank with the intact root balls facing out to catch silt and hold the soil. 

Town Manager Richard Davis has said that the relatively new stabilization process is environmentally friendly.

The work has to be completed between July 15 and Sept. 30, which is the time of year Atlantic salmon are least susceptible to being affected by the construction.

“It made me nervous with recent delays but now we’re moving along,” Jones said.

After FEMA approves of the draft, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will evaluate the project and consider whether it violates any of a long list of federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act.

The consultants were hired by the town to stabilize the bank after tropical storm Irene caused a 50-foot-wide, 300-foot-long chunk of the bank to fall into the Sandy River in August 2011. The ground between the riverbank and the road has been eroding since, threatening to collapse the road into the river.

Whittier Road was closed briefly in November because of erosion and its effect on the road’s stability, but after complaints from those who used the road, it was reopened. As a safety precaution, traffic has been limited to the lane farthest from the river.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252
kschroeder@mainetoday.com